tirsdag, september 19, 2006


I'm curious whether the citizens of other nations that have major Chinatowns feel surprised when they voyage and encounter another Chinatown in another country.

Tonight I was fortunate enough to visit Yokohama's kickass Chinatown. I'd heard much about it and seen some lovely photographs through images at Flickr.com, but I hadn't put this part of the city on my official list of things to do during this conference.

Luck was on my side. Luck is often the result of one's own hesitation to take action. It struck twice tonight.

So there we were outside the exhibit hall, Lol and I. She was looking for a client-like dinner. "I've got one more sale in me," she said.

I had nothing. I wasn't even sure I was hungry. But I stalled. I stalled long enough to have her get the dinner invite she'd quietly and quite successfully conjured. She said: "What I really want is a dinner with the South Africans."

That wasn't really a sales wish. That was a guilty pleasure wish...though we might find money in it down the line. Really, it was a guilty pleasure to spend the evening with the South Africans. I'm pleased as punch I got to ride Lollie's coattails. Moments after she'd wished this, one of the SAs walked up. Lol asked what he was doing tonight. He said he and a group were going to Chinatown. He invited her to dinner. And since I was the chipper-faced yahoo standing next to her, he politely asked me. Sweet.

We'd sat in the hotel bar last night near a thick knot of this international group. (They were from South Africa but a couple had emigrated to Australia.) In the bar, nearly all of them spoke Afrikaans--a language/dialect I really don't think I even knew about. Lol mentioned it. I said, slowly. "A-fri-KAANS?"

Lol liked the sound of the language. I did too. It reminded me of Danish with its bubbling tones, all soft sounds clipped together and skipping along. Mixed with accents that told a history of South African imperialism (English pronunciation contained elements of Welsh, Scottish and English), the sound of conversation was as lovely to hear as the meaning (when I caught it).

Afrikaans is descended from the Dutch.

So nine of us took the train three stops to Chinatown, wandered in a couple blocks, and paused long enough outside a restaurant to read the menu that a young man stepped out and spoke to us in English. Luck had rattled its sabre a second time.

It was his family's restaurant. He was the only one working there who spoke English. He'd been studying at the University of Kent, England for five years.

What a meal! Gorgeous food. The spicey tofu was particularly good.

But it was the dinner table conversation that really rocked. A wonderful blend of stories and casual thoughts. Loads of laughter.

I feel blessed.
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